Shawnn Monteiro is a veteran jazz singer whose conversational storytelling style and phrasing sometimes recall Carmen McRae a little although with her own musical personality. She was discovered early on by Mongo Santamaria, working in his band for two years before launching her solo career. Ms. Monteiro made her recording debut in 1993 and has since led six albums (including three for the Whaling City Sound label) with one of the highpoints being 2002’s One Special Night. In addition to teaming her with flugelhornist Clark Terry and drummer Jimmy Cobb, that album had her accompanied by her father, bassist Jimmy Woode, who is perhaps most notable for his important stint with Duke Ellington. Her new recording You Are There is dedicated to her father. This set has the singer joined by two world-class rhythm sections. The first six songs feature the recently deceased pianist Michael Renzi (a master at accompanying singers), bassist Dave Zinno and drummer Steve Langone while the second half of the set has pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Nat Reeves and drummer Joe Farnsworth. Trombonist Steve Davis is a major asset on a few of the numbers while trumpeters John Allmark and Joshua Bruneau also have their moments to shine.Shawnn Monteiro, who explores both familiar standards and a few superior obscurities, has a mature voice, a deep understanding of the lyrics that she interprets, and a solid sense of swing. She begins the program with a joyful version of “Dearly Beloved,” puts plenty of quiet feeling into Blossom Dearie’s “Inside A Silent Tear,” and is in top form on a contrasting pair of Dave Frishberg songs: the whimsical “Let’s Eat Home” and the emotional ballad “You Are There.” Renzi contributes some sparkling piano to a medium-tempo “How Deep Is The Ocean” and both the singer and trombonist Davis sound beautiful on “You’ll See.” The music stays at a high level during the second half of the set. “The Shadow Of Your Smile” has some fine scat-singing and trombone work; their interplay is one of the set’s highlights. On “Autumn Leaves,” Shawnn Monteiro begins singing the verse as a duet with Barron, states the melody with the trio for a chorus. and then in the second chorus really displays her jazz phrasing, perfectly placing her notes without losing the words or the melody. A light bossa rhythm, a fine trumpet solo and the leader’s warm singing uplift the lesser-known “Alone At Last” and she follows with a personal version of “Never Let Me Go.” A cooking “How High The Moon” is sandwiched by “I Hear Music” before the set concludes with “My Old Friend,” a heartfelt tribute to a close associate. You Are There is an enjoyable and easily recommended set full of first-class singing that features Shawnn Monteiro in top form.
Scott Yanow, jazz journalist/historian